Benediction Online

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The First Baby Shower

It’s been called the first baby shower.

Wise men from the east come looking for the baby whose birth they have seen foretold in the stars and, although they at first make the understandable but not very wise mistake of looking for him at the palace, they soon find him in Bethlehem and give him gifts.

You may notice that although there are three gifts, the Bible does not tell us that there were three magi – there could have been two or four or a whole crowd.  Neither does it tell us that they came by camel. All it says is that they came from the East having followed a star and when they went to Herod’s palace they were told that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and so that’s where they went next.  It was almost certainly a while after Jesus was born and probably Joseph and Mary had found somewhere a little more comfortable to stay by this time. So they didn’t go to the stable – the Bible just tells us that the star “stopped over the place where the child was.”

When the wise men found Jesus they gave him gifts and paid him homage. This rather odd phrase meant that they made a formal public statement of their allegiance to their feudal lord. In other words these travelers from another country – presumably Gentiles since they don’t know the prophecy – saw in Jesus their lord.

Their story is in many ways our story. We were each drawn by a star or a light or a glimmer of something. It may have seemed like a powerful comet or it may just have seemed like co-incidence – but each person sitting here today was drawn by something to approach the presence of God. It was a journey. And not an easy one following that light, that glimmering. As T.S. Elliot says in his well-known poem, “The Journey of the Magi”
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

“A hard time we had of it.” The journey from following our own ego to following Jesus and seeking God’s presence is never easy and yet it has a special grace because we are drawn ever forward by that light.

In fact the big difference between our journey and that of the Magi is that they arrived at the place where the child was. They saw the infant Jesus in a particular time and a particular place. For us, the star never stops moving. We have glimpses. We have epiphanies, God moments when Spirit is suddenly present in our lives. When we gather together in worship or when we stand in awe of the ocean or a beautiful sunset we may feel then the presence of the all-compassionate God but so often, as soon as we notice, the moment has passed. The star has moved and we can only follow in hope.

We bring our gifts but we don’t get to open our treasure chests and give tangible things to a visible child. Our task is perhaps much harder. We get to give our gifts, often intangible though none the less real, to the Christ in other people. Not for us, paying homage to a visible incarnate lord, however young. Our homage is due to one who moves in our lives like the wind, never staying still and whom we are asked to see in others; and not just the others whom we like the most but those who are different and those against whom we are prejudiced.

Our baby shower doesn’t have a clear beginning and a clear end. Because we are asked to shower our gifts on God in each other day after day after day.
The gifts in our treasure chests are not gold, frankincense and myrrh. We have each been given innumerable gifts by God and although these include our money and possessions they tend to be more intangible. Many of you have a gift of friendship- of being able to include new people into your life and helping them to know that they are loved; many of you have wonderful gifts of hospitality – of helping people feel at home and welcome; which often includes cooking great food, and we certainly have some wonderful chefs among us; some of you have a great ability to bring order and beauty; others have tremendous skill with color in paint or in fabric; while others weave with word, ideas and concepts. Some of you are skilled musicians or can sing a beautiful song to God and help others to be touched by music. I could go on… this church is full of talented people.

There are other gifts which are even more foundational, and as our bodies start to restrict our activities these become ever more important: love, joy, humor, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control - these are all gifts.

What is in your treasure chest? What are the gifts that God has given you to offer in his service to others? What are you bringing to Jesus’ ongoing baby shower?


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